“Time to Grab the Pancakes!” 84th CSW Commentary

  • Published
  • By Col. Randy B. Tymofichuk
  • 784th Combat Sustainment Group
In the early 1990s I was a young captain at Whiteman AFB, Mo., looking forward to my next dream assignment at Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB, Neb., as an action officer working future requirements. I recall taking a few days to go house hunting and to meet with my new boss. Upon arriving at Bldg. 500 at Offutt, I was told to call back to my home station immediately. When I did, my commander told me to return to base ASAP!

Much to my surprise I returned to Whiteman to an environment where we were standing down from alert after nearly 30 years of vigilant watch and deterrence. The nuclear bomber and missile forces were being told to stand down from alert. I couldn't believe it; this was something I never thought would happen.

Yes, we engaged in the era of détente and we were engaged in Operation Desert Shield/Storm and the world climate was changing. However, we never imagined this would happen; everyone thought SAC would be around forever. Less than a year later we transitioned to what is now known as Air Combat Command, and to a U.S. Air Force war fighting strategy changed to fighting two major theater wars simultaneously, this on top of significant force reductions ... sound familiar?

Guess what? We survived and adapted. We continued to provide our nation with unprecedented war fighting capability as we moved into a uni-polar world with the United States asserting itself as the sole dominant economic and military power.

Yes, I lost out on my dream job as SAC transitioned to Streategic Command, or STRATCOM, and reduced the staff significantly. A majority of the Whiteman staff transferred to Langley AFB, Va., to stand up the nuclear branches in maintenance and operations in our newest major command. We all clearly understood the on-going transformation was much larger than any one of us!

Growing up in rural Montana around many large families, one quickly learned "the time to grab the pancakes is when they are being passed" promoting that sense of taking on the challenge and the opportunity. Today it seems every time we turn around, someone is "passing the pancakes" as we continue to undergo some form of change (Transformation, TF 720, NSPS, Force Shaping, VERA/VSIP, etc).

This is nothing new, ask any old-timer whether they are a civil servant, chief or colonel, and they will tell you their careers are marked with change and they are part of living history. I am sure they will regale you with many stories of "when I was an Airman we used to walk to work, uphill both ways, in knee deep snow." They all survived and because of their commitment and dedication we continue to be the world's greatest Air Force!

Yes, things are a little different today. We have programs to help us "manage change." We are a "nation at war" and our military services are constantly deployed. I don't think any perspective or resistance to accepting change is any different now than it was then. The one constant making this a great Air Force is the relentless commitment to making the mission happen. This has made us extremely unique and, I submit, even more adaptable.

So how do we accept change to make it more palatable? How do we engage to make the change: (1) more tolerable, and, (2) an environment in which we thrive?

We must continue to emphasize our core values, "Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do" to sustain the fight. Furthermore, we must resolve to do things smarter not harder; remember we claim to be the most technologically advanced service in terms of capability and people. We capitalize on our strengths and continually improve our weaknesses. We don't waste time and energy complaining how bad things are (although our sister services would say it is our given right to whine), we make them better. We help each other succeed in every facet of duty whether it is during a long career in civil service, the military or preparing our folks for the transition into other career opportunities.

Yes, we do not like change ... most folks don't. We like routines, predictability and stability, but we must meet the challenges put before us. Now more than ever, our nation is depending on us to adapt and continue to hold constant on meeting every Air Force mission. Most folks outside the Department of Defense do not see the turmoil we are experiencing; they see stability with a consistent focus on serving our proud nation. Believe me; every person in this Air Force is making a significant impact each and every day.

So, as we continue to march through the times of change, I ask you ... What will you do when the pancakes are being passed? Will you grab one? Or just pass it down the line to the next generation of Airman. Grab one - we owe it to our future!